Tuesday, February 26, 2013

There was a post in the Linked in group about rejection and I felt with the interest that was expressed
and the fact that these days rejection tends to be such a difficult thing for us to stomach, I thought it would be an interesting topic to expand on. This topic could be included in both my personal and artistic blog but I felt since we are talking art and that was the origin I hope some of the creative or not so creative types-okay anyone can post a comment whether you agree or disagree, it would be an interesting topic to explore with fellow readers and bloggers.

First of all, when did we become so afraid of our children receiving rejection-we have built up rejection to be some sort of insurmountable obstacle instead of a learning process or character builder. The funny thing about this question is that everyone I talk to do not seem to be the ones afraid of the rejection-it's more some phantom victim that has helped create rules that shield children from any form of loss and punish anyone too happy in winning.

The previous description has been experienced more in my personal life raising a young child but rejection has always been a part of my career as well. I started in production art, I have always been an out of the lines coloring kind of personality, now my first job and I have to not only draw within the lines but I need to perfect the lines and keep them perfect and consistent. This was back in the day when we were excited to see a new piece of equipment called an apple computer-what a novelty it was. We still had to rule separations for photographs in publishing yearbooks, create windows and strip film with an exacto knife. I started out with all my work being thrown in the garbage before I had a chance to realize I was being reassigned to another less precise project. This insecurity building exercise continued until I was moved to a department that didn't realize I didn't yet have the skills to do all the work they required.

After a great amount of trial, error and more trial-I became a production artist that could use an exacto knife, a mechanical pen, strip film or and do any kind of paste up with more than adequate quality. If I would have succumbed to the pressure and rejection and the fact that for part of my first job as an artist I was driving a van to deliver work to other artists, I would have been dead before I started but I didn't give up and used the rejection to improve my skill and over time not only did I become a production artist but also learned the computer on the fly. Again, trial and error, mistakes, low raises and all around general stress of a new job made me a quality production artist and set the wheels for the next job I was unqualified for, but we won't tell anyone about that.

At the job I worked on a mac, at home I worked on a small ridiculously inadequate PC, with one of those very cheap drawing programs. The first drawing I ever completed was a green treefrog, a very detailed and colorful tree frog which used every aspect of the primitive drawing package I was using for all its worth. My portfolio was a bunch of high school kids drawing and folios as we called them, nothing even close to adequate for a job as a computer graphic designer. My wife at the time even ask me if I was sure if I could do the job. I was strongly encouraged not to show the tree frog but it was the only thing that actually showed I could use drawing tools on the computer. I got the job and in the years following was told that the tree frog was the only thing that actually stood out in my portfolio and convinced them that I could do the work they needed.

It was a very scary, humble beginning and yet I was able to master photoshop, Micrografix Designer, Pagemaker and Illustrator all on the job and made a highly technical job as creative as it could possibly be. In the first year or so I became a manager after originally being told there was no chance of me being the manager, after months of trying to hire a supervisor for myself, my boss decided that I was doing all the processes that a manager does and so I became a manager. This was another point where rejection could have been a defining moment for me but I improved my skills on the computer and learned how to manage.

Up to now I have talked about rejection and how it relates to a job in general but on the job rejection is the norm not the exception. Being a designer, you normally have to read minds-I didn't know being a medium was part of the process but it is. You need to read minds, you need to guess what people are envisioning and after you have created what you think they have described you must start all over again. One of the funniest aspect is when a client says he or she loves your design, just not the color, the main graphic, the other image, the size and the style-other than you really nailed it. I learned very quickly that it is their project and I am just a steward to get them to create what they envision. I can be totally in the right and their scope can be completely off and failing but if I do not capture what they need I have failed. As a designer it is my responsibility to steer them into what I think is a better direction and create something that works for their marketing needs and graphic appearance but ultimately it is their project and in the end the customer is and always will be right. I learned that the project, as much passion and love I had for it, would never be mine. I have always said if a client wants a stick figure and you feel you can deliver the mona lisa in all its perfection, it doesn't matter that your artistic tendency insists that the master work would be better for the client, the client asked for a stick figure and if you can't convince them otherwise-you've failed-mona lisa and all-sorry Leonardo.

Another aspect of rejection is in my painting. Now I don't have the separation that this is not mine, this is mine and me and everything about my passion. I remember meeting with my first gallery owner and was sure they would just be blown away by my artistic mastery. My ego expected an easy path to a great success and yet as soon as I saw the paintings on the walls mine shrunk in comparison. I don't take that lightly as I am not quick to put another artist's work over mine but it was obvious, I was a very young artist and the other work was from greatly more experienced and it was clear I had much to learn. I wasn't accepted to the gallery but the things I learned about perspective and color, tone was just amazing and have helped me in my current works. The gallery owner dissected my work and instead of just freezing and never painting again I jumped very quickly to another level within weeks. I suddenly was able to see past my amazing work and see the flaws which was the only way I could have improved and perfected those flaws. After my meeting I was able to see how depth and perspective appeared to form and after a few months of awkward painting I took the tools I acquired and use them to this day.

The awkwardness I speak of is the fact that when you paint or create for a long time much of what you do tends to be subconscious or second nature, when someone breaks that habit suddenly you are overwhelmed by the fact that nothing is natural-you think about every line and stroke and the awkwardness is the fact that you analyze and use the left oriented logic instead of losing yourself in the work.

The next great rejection was a teacher-again I was excited and knew she would be impressed and she was but also told me I had much work to do. After that meeting, I learned to change the texture and colors instead of going with a technique I was comfortable with and using it throughout the work. I was awkward and consciously changing my work and again felt a great ship to a higher level of work. I believe the only way I could have improved is to see what an outside eye saw, especially one that had knowledge of my craft.

No one loves rejection, but rejection can be the most incredible tool to improve yourself and your art. Rejection is something that allows you to see outside of your comfort zone and motivates you to improve instead of keeping to the norm. It can be awkward, it can hurt sometimes but being artists and the fact that we do work within an ego driven trade, we must be able to separate ourselves from the rejection and realize that there is always room for improvement. At the same time we must also know where the rejection comes from and take it from its source. See if there is anything that is constructive in the criticism, try to see your work from another perspective and realize realistically where you can improve and where your style ends and flaws begin. It is a thin line but always be open, rejection can be your friend and mentor if you have the right attitude.

So here is my question for you-what was the best bit of rejection that motivated you to improve your work? Did you reach another level in your art or career through criticism? How do you separate yourself from the art you do for the client and how would you steer a client in the right direction-how often are you successful. I'm hoping for many comments as I know rejection is part of all of our lives as artists and people in general. Thanks for reading.

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